Sunday, 13 May 2012

Slow Going On The Stratford (Mostly).

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)

All quiet now, after a disturbed night.
We were reasonably exhausted after our much disturbed night in Birmingham, and didn't feel under great pressure to make a massively early start.  Our boating plans for today covered familiar ground, and in the past we have achieved the trip in well under a full day, so a leisurely start seemed to be in order, and normally would not have put any pressure on us.

Whilst Cath did some essential shopping, I got things ready for departure.  Having noted that two hire boats had spent the night on the "thirty minutes maximum" services moorings for the water point, they showed little sign of moving on, so I was compelled to carry heavy water containers some distance back to "Sickle".  I expect they thought me a bit rude when I didn't exactly return their greetings when they were still blocking the facilities when we did finally get going.  Still, where they were, they probably had had a less disturbed night than us!

Turning on to the Stratford at Kings Norton
We had set out on the Worcester & Birmingham canal, and almost from the start, it became apparent that progress today would be a lot slower than we were used to on this route.  Of course, in the past we have been on "Chalice", and made good progress.  The W&B proved to be a canal where "Sickle", with her much greater depth in the water, was never going to match those timings.  I started to remember that even "Chalice" drags through some of the long narrow "boat width" channels where the canal passes under railway bridges, and "Sickle" was not only slowed to a crawl by them, but also continued to struggle through mud for quite a bit beyond each one.  We have not got her ballasted down any more than usual, but were far more affected by the shallowness and mud in several places than we typically are on other canals that people complain about draught problems on.  I guess different boats behave different ways.

Brandwood Tunnel entrances are Grade II listed, apparently.
Kings Norton was reached without major problems though, albeit slowly, by our standards, and here we were to turn left onto the Northern Stratford canal.  Or we would have, had two hire boats not been struggling to turn into the same canal from the other direction, and then convinced themselves that the King's Norton stop lock was a major hazard to navigation, that needed several attempts to get into!  My heart sank, as we were already well down on time, and I had visions of crawling along behind these boats for many lock-less miles.  I need not have worried, though - they decided we were likely to be quicker, and let us through.  Despite the difficulties we then encountered, we never saw them again.

The Shirley draw Bridge is electrically operated
If we thought the W&B had been shallow, particularly at the bridge holes, then the Northern Stratford proved more so.  Many of the bridges we were bouncing on the bottom, despite me cutting the power, to try and glide over any muck, without fouling the propeller.  Sadly this was not always possible, and where we did grind to a near stop in one or two of the worst, then re-engaging the propeller often resulted in picking up all kinds of muck on it, and needing to reverse heavily again to (hopefully!) try and throw it off.

I seem to have done a lot of this over recent days!
This was not always successful, and by the time we reached the electrically operated Shirley Draw bridge, I was once again trying to drag various clothing and plastic bags from the propeller.  I even pushed a large mass of vegetation away from the front of the boat before restarting, but within 50 yards we were stopped again, once more ferreting around under the counter with a shaft, trying to see what we had picked up.

With the miles largely covered, time for the locks!
I'm not convinced from that point on I ever got the propeller fully cleared - although we moved along fairly OK, the wash from the prop never looked normal, and there was a greater tendency for the back end to "paddle wheel" across the canal when manoeuvring at slow speeds.

Descending the attractive Lapworth locks in evening sunshine.
It was with some relief that we finally made it to Lapworth locks, and with even greater relief that we found, (as in the past), that there are very easy downhill locks.  We quickly slipped into a pretty efficient operation, but why, oh why, do many steerers boats coming the other way, that you need to "exchange" locks with, always seem to assume that you will do all the work of giving them a totally straight run from one lock to the other, whilst you jump through hoops to make it possible for them ?  People generally I think see "Sickle" as a "small" boat, manoeuvrable,  that can easily get out of their way - and seem to have little comprehension that it needs far more depth of water to float in than most of them do.  I do often wonder whether I should spend more time trying to educate others what makes life easier for the steerer of a deep draughted boat, but I'm not sure how many steerers of modern leisure boats really recognise a deep draughted boat when they see one.

Birmingham to Lapworth (Northern Stratford Canal)
Miles: 17.5, Locks: 14

Totals for extended trip....
Miles: 268.4, Locks: 193

1 comment:

  1. I dont think it is an issue just reserved for deep drafted narrowboats Alan.

    Most narrowboaters look at NC see a tiny 25ft cruiser and assume it will float in an egg cup full of water. In reality we are far deeper drafted than them at over 3ft!!

    Not such a problem on the bigger rivers but can be on the ditches if people dont get out of the way.